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UK police spied on us, protesters tell inquiry

Shell to Sea, an environmental protest group, claims it was infiltrated by a British officer between 2004 and 2006: MARK STEDMAN/PHOTOCALL IRELAND

By:  Ellen Coyne – The Times

A Mayo protest group that claims it was spied on by a British police officer has asked to be included in a UK inquiry into undercover practices.

Shell to Sea, an environmental activist group that protested against the Corrib gas pipeline, believes it was infiltrated by Mark Kennedy when he was in the Republic.

Mr Kennedy, who worked for the Metropolitan police under the cover name Mark Stone, is one of a number of officers being examined by the Pitchford Inquiry. Shell to Sea is calling for the inquiry to establish what relationship there was between gardai and the Metropolitan police.

Mr Kennedy joined protests against President George W Bush’s visit to Ireland for an EU-American summit in June 2004 and the Shell to Sea campaign in Co Mayo in 2006. He also attended protests at Shannon airport over alleged extrajudicial rendition flights.

The Metropolitan police, which operates in Greater London, formally apologised last year after it was revealed that undercover officers, including Mr Kennedy, had deceived women into having sexual relationships while they infiltrated protest groups.

Last month The Times revealed that Frances Fitzgerald, the tanaiste, had asked Nóirín O’Sullivan, the garda commissioner for a new report on Mr Kennedy’s presence in Ireland. She will not confirm if the report will be made public.

The Times also revealed that gardai knew Mr Kennedy was in the Republic on a number of occasions between 2004 and 2006 but refused to tell ministers whether they were aware that he was working as an undercover officer.

Shell to Sea has accepted that the Pitchford Inquiry cannot examine policing practices in other jurisdictions, but said that it would be in “everyone’s interest” to examine the experiences of people in Ireland who were possibly spied on.

In a formal submission to the inquiry, it said: “Where proper governance is, or is expected to be present, a police officer coming from such a jurisdiction is bound by and must operate within such governance and cannot claim the excuse of [Ireland’s] laxity for any failure to adhere to his or her own jurisdiction’s precepts.”

It added that many of those involved in the Shell to Sea protests were environmental activists who had travelled from the UK, and that their rights may have been breached in Ireland and should be examined.

In June the PSNI said that undercover officers had been operating in Northern Ireland during the 1990s without its knowledge. Mark Hamilton, the assistant chief constable at the PSNI, told the Northern Ireland policing board that his force had been “completely blind” to the presence of undercover Metropolitan police officers.

In 2011 President Higgins, who was a Labour TD at the time, and Dermot Ahern, who was then justice minister, asked the garda commissioner to report on Mr Kennedy’s actions in Ireland. That report was never published.

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